The deterioration of SAFC continued at the weekend. Preston’s victory meant that they were the 11th team to leave Wearside with all three points this campaign. That should be the only stat you need when pondering why we are crashing towards a second straight relegation.
For the umpteenth week in a row, Sunderland weren’t the only side in the bottom three to lose. This has incredibly frustrating as that gap to safety has remained within touching distance. To a more committed group of players, seeing that Barnsley had lost in the early kick off would have been enough to inspire a passionate performance. We could have moved off of the bottom of the table and closed in on the teams just above, providing ourselves with a massive boost before the international break. However, this sort of hope is going to waste on the current Sunderland side and it was all too easy for Preston.
On the matter of the international break, its occurrence is neither positive nor negative in terms of our season. I genuinely don’t believe two weeks off will make a shred of difference to us winning or losing at Derby on Good Friday; we would lose and put up very little fight no matter how long we have off.
Our chances of getting anything out of these final few matches aren’t being helped by a woeful disciplinary record. Three red cards in the last five matches have hampered our survival hopes; no matter how poor your players are it does help to have 11 of them on the pitch. Jake Clark-Salter’s sending off on Saturday was stupid; he could and should have let his man go but instead he committed a silly foul and received his marching orders for the second time in under a month. Then there is the Jason Steele dismissal and, well, the less said about that the better. I could only take some solace from this one if the man stepping in to replace him was actually more competent.
Regardless of how close we are to being on the right side of the dreaded dotted line, it’s increasingly hard to keep positive. The worst part is that the gap to safety will likely remain the same, making the impending relegation even more frustrating. Of course we’ll only have ourselves to blame when it is mathematically confirmed, but at the end of the season we will look at the league table and see that some very poor teams have survived; unfortunately we’ll be the worst of the bunch.
Whether we are in the third division or somehow retain our championship status, things need to change. The club is dying at an alarming rate, relegation won’t be a blessing like we all thought it would be twelve months ago. This time around it will only bring further crippling debt and an even emptier Stadium of Light. This is truly the worst period in the history of Sunderland AFC...